Bar owners react to new Shelby County health directive

Bar owners react to new Shelby County health directive

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - More questions and confusion from Memphis bars and restaurants as the Shelby County Health Department issues another directive about the places you can eat and drink.

Now some restaurant owners say they are being unfairly targeted.

“I’m just mad because this is so disproportionately affecting small businesses,” said Tami Montgomery, owner of Dru’s Bar.

Tami Montgomery owns Dru’s Bar in Midtown. She says she has done everything possible to follow guidelines including excessive cleaning and social distancing.

“The government decides because you’re a bar and you serve alcohol you’re irresponsible and it’s not disaffected for people,” said Montgomery.

Nick Scott owns Alchemy in Cooper-Young. He said he was surprised to find his restaurant listed as a bar that has to close.

“We do have a large bar. I consider it more of a restaurant and I feel our clients do,” said Nick Scott, owner of Alchemy.

Alchemy customers say they do consider it more of a restaurant. But Alchemy, like all of the 50 businesses on the list, have limited service licenses. That means the businesses sell as much or more alcohol than food. Scott says Alchemy sells craft cocktails that can cost more than two appetizers.

“We’re going to remain open as a restaurant until there’s an industry wide shutdown. We will remain open,” said Scott.

The Shelby County Health Department announced that businesses considered as bars have to shut down because of the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“You want to blame the bars,” said Montgomery.

The health department said when people are drinking they can’t wear a mask. The same is true at a restaurant, but restaurants do not have to close. However, they do have to close at 10 p.m.

The health department has asked restaurants to get a customer’s name and phone number and where they sat in the restaurant for contact tracing if necessary. Danny Sommerall with the Half Shell restaurants has a piece of paper for customers to fill out but he says he’s not sure exactly what he is supposed to do.

“I’ve asked them for the information. If they refuse to provide it for me, I have to tell them they have to leave. I don’t know. There’s no clarification,” said Danny Someralli, owner of Half Shell.

It is not clear if so-called bars can appeal the designation.

The health department in a statement said it has the power to shut down any business considered a health hazard.

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